Surrounded by empty bookshelves, stacked chairs, oversized papier-mâché hats, and other left-over props, Kelly Schaub, the owner of Play by Play Theatre Bookstore, and I sat down to discuss the inspiration and future plans for this unique store located at 1771 Selby Avenue in St. Paul—between Fairview and Snelling, near Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas. Having participated in the Twin Cities theater scene for ten years now, this self-described “recovering stage manager” has decided to take a break from the backstage life and open a bookstore. “About ten years ago I realized the Twin Cities needed something like this,” she says, “and about five years ago I did some market research and wrote a business plan.” About a year ago Schaub pulled out that business plan, “dusted it off,” and decided it was finally time.
As far as book selection, Play by Play will offer new and used scripts, theory, biographies, and other theater-related literature. While the store will start out carrying primarily theater-oriented books, Schaub would like to include books and resources for all performing arts including dance, opera, and film. “I want the store to be whatever people want the store to be,” she says. But making money is not Schaub’s sole purpose for opening the store; in fact, it’s not even the primary purpose.
“More than anything,” says Schaub, “I would like the store to be a place for anybody interested in theater to hang out and make connections.” The store will include free wireless Internet, computer workstations, and a scanner/copier/fax area for those without the resources to have these at their offices. Other long-term attractions envisioned by Schaub will be a room in the basement set aside for board meetings or audition space, as well as a backyard space that will eventually hold events in warmer weather.
Opening an independent bookstore these days is rare; in the tumultuous publishing industry, many fear to challenge chain superstores and online retailers. “The key is specialization,” says Schaub, noting that the Twin Cities community—home to multiple independent bookstores dedicated to specialties like children’s books, mystery novels, and science fiction—is particularly friendly to independent retailers.
The grand opening of Play by Play Theatre Bookstore is set for early November; however, says Schaub, that date is subject to change. (“Everything takes longer than you’d expect.”) However, there are already events on the Play by Play calendar, including a book club that met for the first time last Monday, and a book launch and signing of Beth Chaplin’s new book The Acting Biz: A Career Guide to The Twin Cities. Schaub will also have a vendor booth at the upcoming Twin Cities Actor Expo.